Saturday, June 28, 2008

#302 A City of Pianos

Bergen is a city of pianos!

Maybe it's because Bergen was home to composer Edvard Grieg. (I still remember trying to learn Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King during my piano lesson days.)
We enjoyed a piano/cello concert in the Troldsalen concert hall adjacent to Grieg's home featuring the music of Tellefsen, Chopin, and - you guessed it - Grieg.
We enjoyed an outdoor piano concert on the streets of Bergen in Torgalmenningen Square.
Even the Bergen public library is sporting a baby grand.
So as we sail away from Bergen, we are happy to have the three MV Explorer pianos on board. It's almost like taking a bit of Bergen with us.

Yours still a little bit in the hall of the mountain king,

Friday, June 27, 2008

#301 The Beauty of Norway

Norway is beautiful.

We traveled 100 miles northeast of Bergen by bus, ferry, and train to experience the Norwegian countryside and the fjords first-hand. We were overwhelmed.
484 NO Fjord Trip Map
Here is some of Norway's beauty through the bus window...
Here is some of Norway's beauty from the ferry...
Here is some of Norway's beauty from the train...
Our traveling companions included Virginia, Mary, and Liz. For a better account of our day and an introduction to Norway, see Mary's UVA blog.
Yours in appreciating the beautiful country that is Norway and the 20 hours of daylight available for viewing,

Thursday, June 26, 2008

#300 Sister Ships Reunited in Norway

It's a little known part of the Semester At Sea family history, but our ship, the MV Explorer, has a twin sister, the Voyager.

Built in the same German shipyard over a two-year span, the girls were uniquely designed and nearly identical at birth.
The Voyager
The Explorer
The girls have been apart for a few years, but we spied the Voyager docked in Norway's largest fjord at Flam not far from the Explorer back in Bergen.
Sis has a new white paint job and now carries passengers for a Spanish cruise line.

But those of you familiar with the Explorer may be amazed when you browse through these Voyager photos. You'll see the remarkable resemblance of twins separated at birth.

Yours in arranging this virtual family reunion,

Monday, June 23, 2008

#299 Captain's Dinner

One of our fun shipboard events during this Atlantic crossing has been our dinner with the ship's captain. Mary, especially, seems to enjoy these events.

Here is Mary at the captain's dinner in 2006 with Captain Roman...
And here is Mary at the captain's dinner this week with Captain Jeremy...
Yours in wondering why I'm never included in a captain's dinner photo,

Sunday, June 22, 2008

#298 Remembering Scotland

We're 50 miles from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. After more than a week at sea, everyone is excited about being so close to land.

We are having fun with all the shipboard events and we are having fun remembering Scotland.

We don't get to dock in Scotland, but our proximity guides our thoughts back in time to our last Scotland visit. A dozen years ago, we borrowed a mini cooper - about the same size as a picnic table - from our Scottish hosts (thanks Randall and Donna) and motored along the single-track roads around the Scotland coast.
Back then, we looked north from John o' Groats, the most northerly settlement in Great Britain, toward the Shetland Islands and wished we had the time to sail there. Tonight, we are passing between the Shetland Islands and the Orkney Islands and wishing we had the time to sail to John o' Groats.

Perhaps we'll catch a glimpse. It's not long till midnight and there's still plenty of light in the sky.

Yours in being eager to arrive in the Kingdom of Norway but also enjoying a slow journey past the Kingdom of Scotland,

Friday, June 20, 2008

#297 The Rest of the Story

If you're relying strictly on the Johnston view of the Semester At Sea world, perhaps the blog of our fellow passenger Mary Carlson, a writer in the University of Virginia Office of Public Affairs, will be horizon expanding:

Yours in offering the rest of the story,

Thursday, June 19, 2008

#296 International Ice Patrol

When asked about north Atlantic icebergs and the prospect of striking one, our captain tells us he's staying 10 miles outside the current ice limit defined by the International Ice Patrol.
The International Ice Patrol was created in the Titanic aftermath. I like their maps. Look in the map legend. A 'Growler' is a piece of sea ice smaller than a 'Bergy Bit' which is smaller than an Iceberg.

Yours in the language of the Arctic subculture,

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

#295 Passing the Titanic

We are about 200 miles north of the Titanic wreck site, the closest we’ll get on our voyage across the north Atlantic. If you were in this position, and were to take the time to look up the latitude / longitude coordinates of the sunken ship, input them into your GPS as a custom point of interest, and hold the device next to your cabin window until it picked up enough satellites to get your current location, this is what you would see:
126 Passing Titanic
It’s been a day of dense fog. Our ship’s horn has been blowing regularly. We can’t see more than 20 feet off the starboard side toward the Titanic, never mind 200 miles.

Yours in a shroud of clouds,

Sunday, June 15, 2008

#294 Why we hate Halifax

After a few days in Halifax, here are a few reasons we hate Halifax:
1. Friendly locals: Everywhere we went...shops, restaurants, hotels... the locals were always friendly and helpful. We hate that.
2. Courteous drivers: Just step off a curb anywhere and listen to tires screech as drivers stop to yield the way to pedestrians. We hate that.
3. Pleasant grafitti: The only tagging we saw anywhere in Halifax was spray painted on an exposed concrete wall behind a cargo container near the harbor. It read "I love my Grandma." We hate that.
4. Knitting in public: On Saturday, the locals were encouraged to visit their public library as part of an organized "knit in public" effort. We hate that.
5. Food: Halifax is home to a wide variety of unique local restaurants, ethnic choices, fresh seafood, inviting pubs, and attentive service, especially at Bud the Spud. We hate that.
6. Harbor: Halifax harbor is lined with red-roofed lighthouses, tall sailing ships, grassy islands, and an inviting boardwalk. It's the second largest harbor in the world. We hate that.
7. Kites: The ocean breezes make for outstanding kite flying. We hate that.

8. The MV Explorer sails out of Halifax harbor at 5pm today. We're leaving. We hate that. For all these reasons, we intend to return to Halifax ASAP.

Yours in hating to leave Halifax,

Friday, June 13, 2008

#293 Dalhousie GIS

Dalhousie University is the largest post-secondary educational institution in the Maritimes. And after visiting their GIS Centre, the largest GIS library facility in Eastern Canada, I’d add friendliest to their list of accolades. I knew they were a good bunch when their quick reply to my email query included a photo of their building and a map to their office in the university library.
Thanks to Jennifer and Ray for their hospitality and to James for taking the time to talk shop and compare notes.

Yours in international GIS,

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

#292 Halifax Traditions

Our first day in Halifax we revived one tradition and started another. Mary continued her Semester At Sea ritual of visiting a library in every port with a productive visit to the Halifax Memorial Library.
Launching a kite into the gentle breeze above the Halifax Citadel was my first international kite flying experience, with the expectation of more to come in the weeks ahead.
Yours in old and new traditions,

Monday, June 09, 2008

#291 Leaving Manhattan

Entering New York harbor is the stuff of lore. Our Sunday goal was to exit New York harbor aboard the MV Explorer on the first leg of our summer Semester At Sea. On land Jenn guided us expertly through a NY diner breakfast and a short cab ride to the port where the three of us strode up the gangway. A whirlwind ship tour ensued.
Later with our plans for Jenn to stow-away thwarted, we said good bye. Then we sailed down the Hudson River, past the Statue of Liberty,
under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and into the open ocean toward Halifax.
As a wise SAS veteran once said, "We may have all arrived on different ships, but we're all in the same boat now."

Yours in leaving Manhattan,

#290 Getting To Semester At Sea

Our goal was simple.

Starting Saturday morning, we'd travel from Charlottesville to Manhattan and board the MV Explorer Sunday before it sailed for Halifax. Our helpers were Elizabeth, Amtrak, and Jenn. Elizabeth put us at Cville station promptly at an early hour. Thanks Elizabeth! Then Amtrak delivered us to NYC on time, no kidding. Then Jenn showed us her new home, her campus, and a fine dinner in Little Italy. Thanks Jenn!
Saturday night, our last night spent on land for weeks, we slept in Jenn's "penthouse" apartment just a few blocks from the MV Explorer.

Yours in getting Semester At Sea off to a great start,

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

#289 Oh, the Places We'll Go!

When last we sailed with Semester at Sea, Kelly finished our journal with this final entry dated December 13, 2006:
"We're on the last leg of our trip around the world crossing the Indiana border on I-74 toward Indianapolis. Thinking back now, the trip dissolves into uncountable little segments. We didn't go around the world. We went to Chicago, then Los Angeles, then San Diego. And each little trip generated its own memories – people, sights, and such. It's like life. You live a whole bunch of days with countless choices along the way and at the end, you look back and realize, that was my life. We saw too many people who don't have the luxury of choices to alter the direction of their lives, so we're returning with a new focus. We know that what's important is what you do along the way – the journey, the days, the choices. As we think back now, we're really thinking ahead, eager for the chance to make good choices every day."
As we prepare now for our second semester at sea, we're thinking about the effects of that first voyage. And we're wishing for more of the same.

Yours in still trying to make good choices,